by Mike Garofola
Batavia High School –
Make no mistake about it – Marian Central Catholic was the best on Saturday at the Batavia Invite.
But if the 2A power is hitting its stride now – what can be said of Mikey Caliendo and Ryan Golnick?
The two were named lower and upper weight OW’s at tournaments end – but that was only half of what these two would accomplish.
Caliendo (29-1) went through his 145-pound division like General Grant did when he took Richmond in 1865.
It was total destruction by this Batavia junior whose precision, power, pace and attacking firepower proved far too much for the four opponents he either tech’ or pinned to claim his second straight title on his home mats.
Golnick would mash his way through a pair of state ranked opponents and into his 220-pound final – once there – he sent shock waves all throughout the Bulldogs gymnasium when he pinned No. 1, and previously undefeated Gio Jackson (Buffalo Grove, 29-1) at 5:39.
It were these two individual performance, plus a few more from the likes of top rated Dylan Connell (29-0) and his Marian Central Catholic teammates that made for an entertaining, thrilling day of wrestling at this high profile wrestling invite.
MCC were 84 points better than runner-up Hinsdale Central (201-117) when the day came to an end, with Maine South (115.5), Addison Trail (102) and Andrew at 101.5 points competing the first five on the leader board.
“It was a very good day of wrestling from the guys – in fact it was a good two days of results for us,” admitted David Silva, the man in charge of the No. 2 rated Hurricanes, who on Friday would watch his Hurricanes defeat the IWCOA’s No. 8 rated 3A team – Huntley – before a big crowd, despite a winter storm that battered McHenry County.
“Friday was a quality win over a quality opponent, but the message after that match, and before we got going today was to put (Friday) behind us, and let’s go back to work today,” continued Silva.
“That was definitely the message that coach (Silva) gave us,” echoed Connell 170, 28-0) who one day earlier, in a contest between reigning state champs – recorded a second period pin over Huntley star David Ferrante.
“It’s always fun to go against the best, and on that night, things went my way – but that is over, and we all came here today to back to work,” continued Connell
“This is a special group we have here – many of us began wrestling and training together back in seventh and eighth grade (so) there’s some great relationships we’ve created, and together with a fantastic coaching staff, we feel like we have an excellent chance to compete for several state medals – and later, the 2A team championship.”
Connell was near flawless on this day – going through and past three opponents – conceding little on his way to a 14-0 major decision victory over Ron Kruse (Hinsdale Central, 23-4) in his championship bout.
Back to the aforementioned Caliendo and Golnick.
Caliendo was just as overwhelming as Connell as he would unleash an impressive arsenal of weapons with each minute he logged.
The No. 4 rated Batavia junior would state his case afterwards as a potential challenger for the big prize in February.
“I know I can compete with (and) beat the best (it’s) what I trained for all throughout the offseason, and have continued to do so since the start of this season,” said Caliendo, who with his V-shaped physique looks as though he were a 160-pounder.
“People say I look like a sixty pounder, so all of that lifting, and strength work I’ve been doing clearly has made a difference in my appearance,” added Caliendo.
His lone defeat of the season (3-2) came at the hands of Joshua Saunders (Christian Brothers College Prep, Missouri) in the 145-pound final at Granite City back in late December.
“It was a very good match, I felt like I wrestled well enough to win,” opined Caliendo of his narrow defeat against the No. 2 rated man in the nation, according to InterMat.
Caliendo’s only regret on this day was not having No. 1 Lemont (2A) back here again as it would have likely meant a match with No. 1 Kyle Schickel.
Golnick might have been flying under the radar until striking pay dirt here.
Always listed just below Jackson, plus Evan Roper (Barrington), Ben Stemmet (Yorkville), Drew Gutknecht (Minooka) and a couple of others, the Jacobs big man will most likely move up a notch of two in the eyes of pollsters this coming week.
“It really doesn’t matter at all where any of us are at in the state polls – especially for me,” began Golnick, now 21-3 overall.
“You just work hard (hoping) all of that work pays off in the end down in Champaign – because that’s what counts the most to me.”
Golnick would credit head coach Gary Conrad, and former Huntley star, Josh Symbal to his mercurial rise.
“Coach (Conrad) pushes us so hard, and he’s constantly helping me with my fitness, which today made the difference against Gio (because) when I saw he was breathing heavier just before that second stalling call (I) knew if I continued to push the pace, there would be a chance for me to throw him,” said Golnick, who used his patented lateral to finish off Jackson near the edge to break a 3-3 deadlock.
“It’s kind of ironic that I am taking on a great wrestler like Gio, who is from Buffalo Grove, where my father graduated from (1986) and where my grandparents still live.”
Symbal, who won the first sectional title in program history at Huntley, and one week later earn the first state medal for the Red Raiders, is the man Golnick says has been the difference maker in his game.
“He’s big, strong, smart, and knows what it takes at this weight, and with him in the room, it’s been great for me,” said Golnick.
Gary Conrad was most proud of Golnick, as well as his 138-pounder, Jake Harrier, who once again turned in a brilliant effort to win top honors.
“Those two, and others on the team, have been working hard, and especially early in the morning when we go out running, and lifting (that) and the weekend schedule we’ve improved upon since Jake came in four years ago,” said Conrad.
“We may get beat up at times (take) a few losses here and there, but when the postseason comes around, nothing shakes the confidence of these guys.”
“Today, you saw how Ryan was unfazed from being out there with the No. 1 guy, especially in the last 40-45 seconds when the pressure was really on.”
Harrier (24-1) who is on his way to Old Dominion next fall – continues to take another step forward in what certainly will be an exciting final few weeks of the season.
“It’s all about doing all the work, cleaning things up, and never being satisfied, regardless of the results,” said Harrier, who is on a collision course with Danny Pucino (Libertyville) and Joel Vandervere (Warren) at the Barrington sectional next month.
Harrier put in two stellar six-minute efforts in his semifinal and final – flashing first rate excellence with his tilts, three of which came in his final with 2A star, Bryce Shelton (Marian Central Catholic) who suffered his first defeat of the season (27-1) during a 10-0 major decision.
“His (Harrier) fitness and work ethic is way up there, it’s one of the many things that I am so proud of,” says Conrad.
It was a family affair at 195-pounds for Machesny Park Harlem senior Cadence Hecox who spent just under seven and one-half minutes on the mats on the day to earn his first title of the year for the 2019 state qualifier.
Hecox, with brothers, and assistant coaches: Jenner and Sage in his corner, pinned his way to his crown, finishing the day by recording a fall at 1:37 over Downers Grove North junior, Drew Beilawski.
“We come from a family of big-time throwers, so it is only natural that (you) learn to throw if your going to wrestle,” said the mild mannered Cadence Hecox, who hopes to add one more state medal to the family trophy case.
Sage and Sterling each have two, Sage a gold medal from 2014, while Kailor’s in 2015 make it four and counting.
“I’ve dealt with injuries to both shoulders, and a hyper-extended elbow this season, but I’m working through it all, and right now, my confidence is high, and I am feeling good heading into the final weeks of the season,” said Hecox, No. 5 in the IWCOA polls.
Around the brackets there were several first time champions crowned, beginning at the lower weights, and Hinsdale Central freshmen, Cody Tavoso (106, 31-3) and Noah Beltran, the fine junior 26-pounder from Maine South.
Both admit their most recent tournament efforts were less than sparkling – however each felt their collective work here in Batavia is a sign of better times.
“I gave away far too many ‘stupid’ points at the (Rex) Whitlach,” admitted Tavoso, just after his 7-5 victory over Alex Armira from Chicago Hope.
“(But) I’ve put a lot of work in since that tournament, particularly with my technique and ‘collar ties’ – so I feel like a lot more confident in my game.”
Beltran did not like what he saw at the Berman Holiday Classic at Palatine – despite his third place finish.
“You probably heard coach (Kevin Hansen) reminding during my final to ‘move my feet’ – it was something I did little of at the Berman,” began Beltran.
“I didn’t attack much there either, so the combination of both of those things made for a poor day (even) though I finished third.”
Beltran (23-4) went back to work on those items, and more, and his 10-1 major decision victory over Eduardo Cholula (West Chicago, 19-2) was proof that a more aggressive approach, constant movement, and quality shots would pay big dividends.
Just as Tavoso and Beltran, West Chicago big man, Ryan Hannah, wasn’t altogether pleased with his overall tournament work – but not at a previous competition.
“I thought I wrestled much better at Wheaton-Warrenville South a couple of weeks ago to win it there (but) I didn’t feel the same here,” admitted Hannah, who after taking a moment to, the affable junior suggested the Batavia Invite offered more high profile opponents comparatively.
“Yes, the field here was so much better, maybe that’s why I felt I wasn’t at my best,” said Hannah, now 23-2.
As is the case in this weight class, it pin or be pinned, and that’s exactly what Hannah did in his first two bouts to advance into his final with Maine South senior, Teddy Hickey.
“It was pretty even for awhile, but one thing I am always working on is my conditioning, and when I felt him tiring, I knew it would be the turning point if I wrestled smart, got my shots, and finished them,” said Hannah, following his 10-0 victory.
The same could be said for another first time champion: Joey Chrillo from Andrews, whose pin at 3:34 insured victory in the 113-pound final.
“For me, the biggest difference between last year and this year is my fitness, and with the way I set up my shots, and being much better at my two-on-ones,” offered Chrillo, who in his first full year in the Andrews’ starting lineup has registed a sparkling 25-5 overall record.
Elon Rodriguez of Marian Central Catholic won for the second time here – this season at 120 pounds after a hard fought 6-2 decision over Joey Roti of Andrews.
The No. 5 rated (2A) Rodriguez (120, 28-2) got in deep and finished his shot – then in front of his corner, the junior unleashed a picture perfect tilt near the edge to increase his advantage to 6-1 with less than 25 seconds remaining.
“It’s just about doing the little things well, and continuing to do so, in addition to staying sharp with my technique and keeping my fitness way up there,” said Rodriguez, fifth at state a year ago.
Teammate Daniel Valeria, fourth in the latest 2A IWCOA poll at 132 – won here for the first time after a third place finish in 2019.
Valeria, now undefeated in 30 matches, pushed the pace hard in the second period to build a 5-0 advantage over Kyle Silzer (28-6) – then rode the Andrews senior hard until the whistle ended the second period.
With some quality work on the mat, Valeria made it 7-0 en route to a 8-1 decision.
“I kind of consider myself a brawler – you can see it in my face when I am out there,” said Valeria with a smile.
With this title, the Hurricanes’ senior now has three on the year (Antioch, Geneva) – and is surely on his way to a third consecutive trip downstate.
Brody Hallin lost here in his final with Mikey Caliendo last season – but the McHenry sophomore came back with plenty of fire on his way to the 152-pound championship.
Hallin (27-1) would pin his way into the final againt 1A star, Oliver Willis (Chicago Hope, 29-1) and once there, a masterful six minute effort led to a well deserved 9-2 triumph.
“Brody had a terrific freshmen year, but he realized (at times) he was competing against men, and it was so different – physically and mentally from his time in club, and IKWFthe year before when he was in club and youth wrestling,” began Jake Guardalabene.
“He was so strong as a freshmen, but there was the ‘breaking’ in period that he needed to go through last season – but he never stopped working despite it all – and this season, he’s figured it all out, and it’s showing, not only with his results, but with the way he manages things out there, dictates’ the pace and match, and with the overall maturity he’s gained in one year.”
The McHenry sophomore is No. 4 in the state polls, with his lone defeat of the season coming at the hands of No. 2, Joe Roberts (Montini Catholic) in a 4-2 decision.
Ronnie Massari, who moved over to Leyden following his sophomore season at Oak Park-River Forest, had now claimed two straight tourney titles after his 6-3 victory over Kaden Randazzo (28-2) of Marian Central Catholic.
The two-year starter would grind out three consecutive hard fought decisions to reach the final, after opening play with a pin early Saturday morning.
“Two great weeks of results for Ronnie – but I am not surprise, because he’s been putting the time in, scoring points when he’s needed to, and working hard with his fitness (so) when you put that all together, the biggest thing is his confidence is sky high high right now,” says his coach, John Kading.
Massari (21-1) was crowned the 160-pound champion at his own tournament last weekend.
No. 2 (1A) Justin Peake (12-1) claimed his second Batavia Invite trophy, but it wasn’t easy for the Johnsburg senior.
Peake would fall behind (4-1) in the first period to Nick Skamra (Addison Trail, 22-9) in his semifinal, before roaring back to get back even at 6-6 in the second period – then using a third period take-down to claim a 8-6 victory.
It was more of the same in his final with Niko Lopez (Marian Central Catholic, 25-3) who took the lead after a scramble at sixty seconds.
Peake would grab back the lead (3-2) with two seconds left in the second period, but soon be chasing a 4-3 deficit after another scramble went the way of Lopez.
After Peake was attended to for a bloody nose, his nicely played reversal gave him the lead for good (5-4) which he made sure of when he rode of Lopez for the last 25 seconds before time.
“It’s been a tough season, and one that started a little late for me,” admitted Peake, third last year at 182.
“I suffered a torn meniscus during the football season in our first game of the year, ironically against Marian Central Catholic, played through it, then had surgery.”
“The knee gets a little swollen time-after-time, but it’s no big deal.”
We would be remiss not to say a word about Chicago Hope, and its two fine men coach Dan Willis brought with him for the second year in a row.
Alex Armira (106, 27-3) and Oliver Willis (152, 29-1) were both runners-up in their respective weight divisions, to help validate their lofty spots in the IWCOA 1A polls.
“This is a great tournament, and for Alex and Oliver, a great measuring stick in some very tough weight classes,” said Willis, who sent the rest of his club to Reed-Custer on this day.
“I real believe both Alex and Oliver showed they belonged here, so for us to get out of the city to compete against different styles and levels of talent made this trip from the westside of Chicago well worth it,” added Willis.
For the record, Armira is currently No. 9, while Willis, a three-time state qualifier, and two-time state medal winner sits third overall.